THERE are some roles in opera, drama and on film, which so dominate that you feel sorry for those who have the other leading parts in the story. One such is that of the courtesan Violetta Valery in Alexander Dumas fils’ novel La Dame aux Camelias.
Almost every great actress and singer of their generation has desired to play the role and many like Greta Garbo on film and Marie Callas in Verdi’s operatic version of the story La Traviata, have left their own indelible mark on the character.
Spare a thought therefore for David Junghoon Kim and Mark S Doss, who more than adequately play the roles of Violetta’s selfish (until he discovers how self-sacrificing Violetta has been), lover Alfredo, and his concerned father Giorgio. They prove to be more than just supporting contributors, Georgio in the scene when he recognises what a good woman Violetta is when he asks her to give up all for his son’s sake, and Alfredo’ as her tries to cling on to the dying Dame aux Camelias.
Despite all their good work, it is Australian-Mauritian soprano Stacey Alleaume who, taking full advantage of the wonderful vocal and dramatic opportunities the role offers, dominates these scenes, as indeed she does the whole opera. You can believe that this Violetta loves Alfredo so deeply that she is prepared to sacrifice her health, wealth, and happiness, in order to secure his future.
Unlike many far-too-healthy-looking Violettas before her, this one physically deteriorates before your eyes until you can almost feel the pain of her dying.
Probable the greatest challenge to the lady’s dominance comes from the WNO chorus, which, relishing the opportunities provided by Verdi’s beautiful score, was in sparkling form. The singers were aided and abetted by a fine set of dancers who helped to create the feeling of debauchery in this decadent world, created by the Toulouse Lautrec-inspired choreography.
Maintaining that same period feel were Tanya McCallin’s sets, fine costumes and expertly- chosen props. And completing a team in top form giving quality musical support, under the decisive leadership of conductor Alexander Joel, was the WNO orchestra, who played Verdi’s wonderful music as if they were coming to it for the first time and enjoying the experience.
La Traviata is at Southampton Mayflower on 24th and 25th November.